With the partial government shutdown ended, U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo sent a check for $5,124 to federal officials Thursday for repayment of his salary during the 16-day impasse.
LoBiondo, R-2nd, sent the check payable to the U.S. Treasury Department in a letter to Caroline Klemp, director of member services in Congress’ Office of Finance.
The congressman wrote in the letter that the money is to be used toward the reduction of public debt. On Thursday afternoon, on his Twitter page, LoBiondo tweeted a photo of his letter to Klemp, his check for $5,124.09 and repeated the “reduction of the public debt” phrase in the subject line.
The move comes after President Barack Obama signed the bipartisan measure early Thursday after it was passed by Congress late Wednesday. LoBiondo voted in favor of the measure.
The measure ended a clash in which Republicans attempted to derail the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and obtain concessions on the budget.
“When we looked like we were headed for real trouble with the shutdown, it was sort of a no-brainer for me to make the decision. While we were going through this terrible period, it would have been unconscionable for me to be paid,” LoBiondo said in an interview with The Press of Atlantic City Thursday afternoon.
On Sept. 30, LoBiondo wrote to Dan Strodel, chief administrative officer at the U.S. Capitol, and requested that his congressional pay be suspended in the event of a failure to pass a continuing resolution to stop a government shutdown. But members of Congress are mandated by the 27th Amendment to be paid. So LoBiondo pledged to return his pay when the shutdown ended.
“A lot of people were hurt very badly, and this was not good for the country, and I have thousands of constituents who were affected by this,” LoBiondo said.
There were a number of members of Congress who made the same pledge to return their salary and some pledged they would give it to a charity, but LoBiondo said he was not aware of who did.
“These are taxpayer dollars, and there is always a second-guessing of an ulterior motive of giving this money to a charity. When this was over, I didn’t dally for moment, but (acted) to immediately demonstrate I was serious about this,” he said.
He said that over the 16 days of the shutdown, while a large portion of the normal business of the federal government was suspended, he spent hours calling a large number of concerned constituents back — many of whom are employed at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township
“Most of these people were very frustrated and demoralized and angry about what was happening. They explained to me the agony and frustration they were facing as a result of not receiving their paycheck,” he said.
“They’ve seen this movie before, and it doesn’t have a good ending. The best thing I thought I could do was personally return their phone calls. I felt that was the minimum I could do,” he said.
Including employees from the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Federation of Federal Employees and National Air Traffic Controllers Association, a union official said, about 1,000 of the 1,500 FAA employees at the tech center were furloughed during the shutdown.
As part of the agreement to end the shutdown, Congress agreed to pay federal workers for the missed time. But employees of contractors, including many who work with the tech center, have complained there is no way for them to make up the pay they lost.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Donna Weaver:
@DonnaKWeaver on Twitter